Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Fatemeh Faranak Bakhtiari holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Economics and Management through a joint doctoral programme between the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Bangor University, United Kingdom. She works as a Senior Scientist at the UNEP DTU Partnership within Mitigation Analysis & Data Management Group.
Fatemeh’s interest in STEM began as she has always felt strongly about the environment and had a wish to help improve the way, we manage natural resources that sustain life on the planet. She considers herself to be lucky, as she has been surrounded by well-educated parents and friends who have always given her the freedom to choose her own path and guided her into the right direction. In terms of education, Fatemeh had opportunities that not so many women in previous generations of her family had, therefore she felt it was her duty to take advantage of these. She has ever since tried to humbly make a difference and set an example for other women – especially her sisters, but also other young girls, for whom studying abroad required a mind-set change.
Fatemeh is an environmental economist with a dual background in engineering and economics. Her professional experience spans from applied research both in Denmark and internationally to development-project consultancy in African, Asian, and Latin American countries, and grassroots-level work with not-for-profit environmental organisations. Fatemeh received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Tehran, Iran. In 2014, she successfully defended her PhD thesis, obtained through a joint doctoral programme between the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and Bangor University, United Kingdom. Fatemeh’s thesis sought to provide applied, policy-relevant evidence that contributes to the debate around natural resource conservation and climate change mitigation. At the moment, she works as a Senior Scientist at UNEP DTU Partnership. UNEP DTU is a leading international research and advisory institution on energy, climate and sustainable development. The UNEP DTU Partnership, hosted by the Technical University of Denmark, supports UNEP and other multilateral and bilateral donors to help developing-country governments manage climate change. Fatemeh’s task in the organisation is to contribute to the valuation of ecosystem services, policy analysis, climate change mitigation and sustainable natural resource management. She helps develop tools for analytical work for analysing and prioritising mitigation and adaptation actions, particularly baseline methodologies for the AFLOU sector. Moreover, she applies quantification and monetisation of the sustainable development co-benefits of climate actions in the context of monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of these actions. In addition, her research interests focus on Non-State Actors (NSA) transparency and governance. With a background such as Fatemeh’s, the sky is the limit, as it can be used to conduct applied research in the area of climate change - they implement development aid-funded projects that help governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Even though gender biases remain deeply rooted, but thankfully the need for change is being embraced and prioritised. According to Fatemeh in regard to adaptation, women play a major role in the poorest countries, which is very inspiring to see.
Due to Fatemeh’s hard-work and dedication, she has been successful in many roles of life. But if there is one achievement on which she looks back at and thinks, “I’d love to go back in time and tell younger me that this was possible”, then it is the fact that she was awarded scholarships, mastered foreign languages, obtained higher education degrees and eventually got a job. Getting a prestigious job means a lot to Fatemeh, as she had to compete with individuals from many different backgrounds, some of them with many more opportunities at their disposal compared to her. If she were to speak to her younger self, then she would say, “to choose my timing carefully: I would speak to my younger self on one of those days when all the barriers seemed unsurmountable - I would tell my younger self that the barriers are not insurmountable: they need hard work and belief in myself.”
STEM to Fatemeh means progress. Progress will only be truly seen, if and when it integrates gendered epistemologies. This is why Fatemeh believes that universities should make dedicated efforts to attract female students and staff. This is where she believes our organisation is useful, as it raises awareness about the issue that is so deeply rooted in the society. If there are changes that Fatemeh would like to see in the STEM fields to make life for women easier, then she would make the following changes:
1. Establishment of communities and support groups where Women in STEM fields can share the experience and get legal supports if needed.
2. Providing support and flexibility for working mothers.
3. Providing equal leadership opportunities since, unfortunately, still in some workplaces, women should be more qualified than men to be chosen for the position. The above of course can not happen without awareness-raising and mindset change for societies.
When we asked Fatemeh in what ways we can encourage young girls to join the STEM fields, she shared with us a quote by Rumi, "Raise your words, not voice and it is rain that grows flowers, not thunder". In Fatemeh’s opinion, STEM fields enable women to show who they are and prove themselves to the world and evolve. Unfortunately, in some countries, women representation in fields such as Math, Science, and Engineerings is scant because traditionally, men have been active in such fields, and such stereotypes affect young girls' choices. Therefore, cultural changes and awareness focused on gender balance in the job market in developing countries can pave the way for young girls to join the STEM fields.
Lastly, here are Fatemeh’s closing words of encouragement for young girls who want to join a STEM field:
“Never underestimate your capability. Nothing is impossible if you believe in yourselve and be ready to take risks and learn from your experience and mistakes. I would like to refer to a famous poem from Rumi: "Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth”
You can contact Fatemeh Faranak Bakhtiari on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/fatemeh-faranak-bakhtiari-3b57442a
I thank Fatemeh Faranak Bakhtiari for taking part in this project and answering all the questions in a very informative manner. I hope, your experience and STEM story will inspire a young girl to join a STEM field and excel just like you have.